[texhax] dvi vs pdf

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Fri Dec 3 03:27:23 CET 2010

On 2 December 2010 Michael Barr wrote:

 > Here is my reaction to the various replies I have received.  First,
 > as long as TeX is TeX it will be required to produce dvi files.  As
 > for pdf, I have no doubt that when it is no longer supported, there
 > will be converters.  But the journal I help edit has several
 > hundred papers in pdf format (most also in dvi and ps).  Who will
 > convert them.  It would be a huge job and we run on zero budget.
 > To see what can happen, what would you do with a Word file from,
 > say, 1990?  Each version of Word can handle files from the previous
 > version or two, but no further.  So unless that file was
 > continually updated from version to version, it is effectively
 > dead.  I don't expect this to happen with pdf, but it illustrates
 > the problems.
 > I have one further problem with pdf.  I am accustomed to compiling
 > a file, previewing it, making changes and then iterate.  I cannot
 > do that with the Adobe reader.  I cannot write a new pdf file while
 > the old one is loaded.  So exit the file from the reader, then
 > compile the new version, load the new file, and then find your
 > place again.  I find this intolerable.  Someone once suggested a
 > different pdf reader and I tried it and found it unsatisfactory in
 > other ways (I no longer recall why).  I'll stick to dvi, thank you.

Strange decision.  Didn't you ask

 > Do users think that dvi is becoming obsolete?  Do you think that
 > in, say 30 years (the length of time that dvi has been around),
 > there will be pdf readers for whatever computers are around by
 > then.  Will there be dvi readers?


What do you want to achieve?  If you want to process the compiled
documents in 30 years, your decision is wrong.

You started a new thread now with the subject line "dvi vs pdf", but
instead of discussing the differences between DVI and PDF file formats
and capabilities, the discussion is about deficiencies of the Windows
file system and the like.

The short answer is: A DVI file is nothing worth at all for long-term

It only contains information about glyph placements and the names of
fonts being used.  Everything else is supported by \specials, which
allow you to pass arbitrary stuff to post processors.  This is highly
device-dependent.  Don't expect that if your DVI file containing
\specials for dvips works with anything but dvips.

Instead of archiving .dvi files it's better to archive the .tex
sources.  Then you can adapt the \specials at least, if necessary.
In other words: If you insist on DVI, you have to archive all the
required resources (fonts, graphics, post processors,...) too.

You said that you can't process old M$ Word files.  One reason is that
older versions of M$ Word didn't include the fonts.  But DVI is even
worse:  While newer versions of Word insert the fonts, your DVI files
expect that you have the same fonts installed on your system in 30
years which you used when you created the files.

PDF is self-contained, hence it's sufficient to archive a single file.
The PDF file format is designed with long-term archiving in mind.

I'm wondering why the useless discussion about Adobe Reader on Windows
pops up again and again.  PDF files can be large, thus AR doesn't load
the whole file into memory but only the parts which are actually
needed.  The nasty file locking problem is a deficiency of Windows and
exists only there.  Load a huge file into one of the PDF viewers which
try to circumvent this problem and see how your system reacts when it
runs out of swap space.

I don't know why people are moaning all the time.  If Windows is too
inconvenient, simply use something else.  Sticking to DVI only because
of this inconvenience is by far the worst thing one can do.

And, Lars, it doesn't matter whether a Windows user knows what a PDF
file is if the question is whether PDF will be supported in 30 years.
I'm wondering if there are any Windows users in 30 years at all.  Just
for the record, a few years ago people still assumed that Microsoft
will support MS-DOG forever.


Reinhard Kotucha			              Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover	                      mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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